Hydroponic systems generally use a growing media (substrates), such as rock wool, coir or peat, to support plant roots and facilitate water and nutrient uptake.
These substrate options all present sustainability issues, as highlighted by a recent report from the University of Coventry, commissioned by the Horticultural Trade Association (HTA) and the UK Growing Media Association (GMA), and they tend to be the largest contributor to the carbon footprint of controlled environment agriculture (CEA) production.
With global controlled environment production expanding significantly, alternatives need to be sought that can decarbonise agriculture while meeting grower specifications and, critically, competing on price.
In this context, the Gelponics consortium, led by AEH Innovative Hydrogel Ltd and Crop Health and Protection (CHAP), is looking at optimising and scaling up novel and sustainable hydrogel substrates (growing media) for the for the CEA horticulture sector that will contribute to reduce the industry carbon footprint while crucially meeting growers specifications.
The project, funded through the Innovate UK ‘Transforming Food Production’ challenge, started in September 2020 and aims to demonstrate the technology potential to offer a cost-effective, sustainable alternative in full, semi-commercial trials for both leafy green and tomato production.
As part of the development and optimisation phase of this project, CHAP is currently conducting a survey to better understand growing media (substrate) use across the UK horticulture sector, especially in CEA horticulture.
This short survey intends to gather the thoughts of growers on the most important factors for their particular growing operation (anonymised). The survey will only take about five to ten minutes to complete, so please click here and make sure your voice is heard.
All the collected data will be anonymised and the outcomes of the project will be disseminated back to the sector through demonstration, as part of the knowledge exchange element of the project.
If you would like more information about the Gelponics project, please contact Dr Aurélie Bovi , Knowledge Exchange and Innovation Associate: email@example.com